Introduction to hierarchy of road users

King of the road?


Getting behind the wheel can make some drivers think – and behave – as if they’re king of the road. As if no one else matters. As if they rule the road. But that attitude has to change – by law.


In September 2021, the Highway Code introduced a hierarchy of road users as part of an overhaul of the rules of the road. Thirty-three rules changed and two new ones were introduced in a bid to make the roads safer for everyone to use.


Here at RoadHow, we thought we’d delve into these changes and find out what it means for you.


What is the hierarchy of road users?

The hierarchy puts the most vulnerable road users at the top, with those that are considered able to cause the most harm at the bottom:


  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Horse riders
  • Motorcyclists
  • Cars/taxis
  • Vans/minibuses
  • Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles


Why make the changes?

The government introduced the changes as part of their £338million investment in walking and cycling. On the back of the increase in the activities during the pandemic, the government wants to encourage more people to ditch their cars and find a healthier and greener way to travel. And by making it safer to do so, they hope more people will take heed.


What does it mean for drivers?

The changes in pecking order mean that drivers need to be more aware of those above them in the list and consider their priority when using the road.


So, if you find yourself following a cyclist and wanting to overtake, then as the driver it’s your responsibility to ensure the safety of the cyclist. This doesn’t mean that cyclists and pedestrians can claim all innocence if there was an accident, but it does mean that more responsibility lies with those lower down the hierarchy.


What are the changes?

Some of the changes are small, but nevertheless need to be adhered to. We won’t list all of them here but key things to take note of include:


  • Pedestrians have priority on pavements and when crossing roads. This clarifies the existing rule that drivers should watch out for a pedestrian who has started to cross the road a driver is turning into.
  • Cyclists have priority at a junction when travelling straight ahead. Motorists must wait until the cyclist has completed their manoeuvre before driving past them.
  • Safe passing distances when overtaking a cyclist have been clarified as 1.5 metres if under 30mph, and 2.0 metres at speeds over 30mph.


If it’s been a while since you last read the Highway Code, now’s probably a good time to brush up on it if you haven’t already. Take a look at RoadHow to find out how we can help improve your road knowledge: https://roadhow.co.uk/.